When cars collide with pedestrians, there is high potential for serious injury. Pedestrian/motor vehicle accidents are a serious problem throughout the world. The United States has a particular problem with pedestrian deaths and injuries. About 5,000 pedestrians are killed and another 64,000 are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year in this country.
The following represents pedestrian accident statistics for the United States according to the National Highway Traffic Association and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
- Pedestrian fatalities account for 11 percent of motor vehicle fatalities.
- Over 180,000 pedestrians have been killed in motor vehicle accidents between 1975 and 2005.
- Pedestrians comprise the second largest category of motor vehicle accident deaths following occupant deaths.
- On average, a pedestrian is injured in a traffic accident every 8 minutes.
- On average, a pedestrian is killed in a traffic accident every 111 minutes.
- In 2005 a total of 4,881 pedestrian were killed in motor vehicle accidents.
- In 2005, the per capita pedestrian death rate was 1.6 per 100,000 people.
Generally, pedestrian deaths rates are higher in urban areas. There is a higher ratio of deaths to injuries in rural areas because of higher impact speeds on rural roads. However, pedestrian accidents occur most frequently in urban areas because pedestrian activity and traffic volumes are greater compared to rural areas.
The National Safety Council estimates that 85.7 percent of all non-fatal pedestrian accidents in the United States occur in urban areas and 14.3 percent occur in rural areas.
- Almost two-thirds of all pedestrian fatalities occur on urban roads.
- In 2005, 72 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred in urban settings.
Although a substantial number of pedestrian injuries occur at intersections, the majority of pedestrian accidents occur at locations other than intersections. This is due to higher vehicle speeds and the fact that drivers are not expecting any stops.
- Over 40 percent of the fatalities in 2002 occurred on roads without crosswalks.
- In 2003, 65 percent of accidents involving pedestrians occurred at non-intersections.
- In 2005, 71 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred on major roads, including interstates and freeways.
Statistically, males are more likely to be involved in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident than females.
About 69 percent of pedestrian fatalities are male, and the male pedestrian injury rate is approximately 58 percent higher than for females.
- In 2005, 70 percent of pedestrian deaths were comprised of males.
- In 2003, the male pedestrian fatality rate per 100,000 population was 2.27 – more than double the rate for females which was 1.01 per 100,000 population.
The vast majority of fatal pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions occur on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in later evening hours.
In 2005, the proportion of pedestrian deaths was much greater on Friday and Saturday. Also, 45 percent of the pedestrian deaths in 2005 occurred between 6 pm and midnight.
- In 2005, 49 percent of all pedestrian fatalities occurred on Friday (17 percent), Saturday (18 percent), or Sunday (14 percent).
- In 2005, 24 percent of pedestrian deaths occurred from 6 pm-9pm and 21 percent occurred from 9pm-midnight.
Young children and the elderly are the most vulnerable for pedestrian accident related injuries. Based on population, children under the age of 16 years are most likely to be struck by motor vehicles.
- In 2003, nearly one-fifth of all traffic fatalities for victims under the age of 16 were pedestrians.
- In 2003, almost one-forth of all traffic fatalities for children between 5 and 9 years old were pedestrians.
- In 2002, 40 percent of all pedestrians under the age of 16 occurred between 5 pm and 9 pm.
Elderly pedestrians, although struck less frequently than children, are more likely to die after being struck by a vehicle. This group accounts for 16 percent of all pedestrian fatalities and 6 percent of all pedestrian injuries.
- In 2005, the rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people was about twice as high for people age 70 and older than for those younger than 70 – 2.9 per 100,000 population.
- In 2005, 35 percent of pedestrian deaths among people 70 and older occurred at intersections, compared with 21 percent for those younger than 70.
Speeding is a major contributing factor in motor vehicle accidents of all types and has serious consequences when a pedestrian is involved.
At higher speeds, motorists are not as likely to see a pedestrian. At higher speeds, motorists are even less likely to be able to stop in time to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
- A pedestrian has an 85 percent chance of death when involved in a motor/vehicle collision at 40 mph, a 45 percent chance of death at 30 mph, and a 5 percent chance of death at 20 mph.
- In 2005, 78 percent of pedestrian deaths in rural areas occurred on roads with speed limits of 40 mph or higher.
When a pedestrian is involved in a motor vehicle accident they are at risk for countless serious injuries. Pedestrians’ head, legs, and arms are the most vulnerable in an accident. Often, pedestrians endure extreme bodily injuries such as:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury
- Fractured bones
Most pedestrians are struck by the front of a passenger vehicle. The initial contacts are with the vehicle bumper and/or the front edge of the hood, depending on the shape of the vehicle structure. When pedestrians are struck by taller vehicles such as SUV’s or pickup trucks, the initial contacts are higher on the body.
In an NHTSA pedestrian accident study, 40 percent of pedestrian injuries resulted from contact with the vehicle, 32 percent resulted from contact with the ground, and 26 percent resulted from contact with unknown objects.
- For a young child, the bumper will strike the thigh, and the front edge of the hood will strike the torso.
- For an adult male, the bumper will strike the knee area, and the front edge of the hood will strike the thigh.
There are numerous common factors that contribute to pedestrian accidents. Negligence is one of the most common factors. Motorists have a responsibility to adhere to the laws of the road and drive in a safe and observant manner at all times. Pedestrians are killed every day due to a driver’s negligence.
Some common negligent practices by motorists include:
- Inattentive or pre-occupied drivers are potentially very dangerous for pedestrians.
- A driver’s failure to observe posted speed limits can add to the severity in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident.
- A driver’s failure to yield the right of way to pedestrians at marked cross walks can increase the chance of being involved in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident.
- A driver’s disregard for traffic control devices can also increase the chance of being involved in a motor/vehicle accident.
There are many things that can be done to reduce pedestrian collisions. Improving the design and materials of roadways and implementing educational and community programs have great potential.
Some of the most important categories of engineering changes that can be made to roadways include separation of pedestrians from vehicles by time or space, measures that increase the visibility and conspicuity of pedestrians, and reduction of vehicle speeds. Separation countermeasures reduce the exposure of pedestrians to potential harm on the roadside and when crossing the street.
Some effective separation countermeasures include:
- Refuge islands in the medians of busy two-way streets
Increased illumination and improved signal timing at intersections can be effective in increasing the visibility and conspicuity of pedestrians.
Some measures to increase the visibility and conspicuity of pedestrians include:
- Increased intensity of roadway lighting
- Diagonal parking
- Relocation of bus stops at traffic signals from the near to the far side of the intersection
Because traffic speeds affect the risk and severity of pedestrian accidents, reducing speeds can reduce pedestrian deaths.
Some effective engineering measures to reduce vehicle speeds in urban areas include:
- Construction of modern roundabouts in place of stop signs and traffic signals
- Traffic calming devices such as speed humps
- Multiway stop signs
Educational and community-based programs could greatly reduce the number of pedestrian collisions.
Educational messages that instruct children about street crossings could particularly reduce neighborhood accidents involving children darting out into the street.
Community-based programs could contribute by building and refurbishing playgrounds in urban areas to reduce the number of children playing in the streets. The establishment of supervised recreation programs would also reduce the number of children playing in the streets.
Long-term data shows a declining trend in pedestrian/motor vehicle collisions. Since 1975, pedestrian deaths have declined from 17 percent to 11 percent in 2005.
The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people decreased from 3.5 in 1975 to 1.6 in 2005. Even though the annual number of pedestrian accidents is slowly decreasing, the fact remains that there are 69,000 pedestrian accidents annually.
Young children and the elderly have always held the highest risks of pedestrian death and injury. Change and progress must be a priority for as long as it takes to eliminate pedestrian collisions altogether.
John Bisnar is a partner at Newport Beach Personal Injury Law Firm Bisnar Chase. The Bisnar Chase law firm has dedicated their practice to victims of serious injuries due to defective products, negligence and malpractice. Visit the main website at http://www.bestattorney.com or call 888-265-0161
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